Podcast 192: Herbs A~Z: Tilia & Melissa

Today we have abandoned the alphabet! Well, not entirely, just for purposes of bringing you a pair of relaxant diaphoretic herbs in this summer heat. These are two plants who are both helpful for releasing inner heat (whether physical or emotional) and allowing cooler heads to prevail.

Linden, Tilia spp., is a common city tree where we live. It’s very easy to identify, just look for the real-heart-shaped toothed leaves, plus the yellow-green smooth-edged “extra leaves” or bracts underneath. The flowers are aromatic and very relaxing, and the leaves have mucilage that emerges when the tea cools. This tree offers amazing abundance every year, but holds its own reserve safe within; it can help us do the same.

The herb called lemon balm, Melissa off., is likewise a relaxant diaphoretic. It’s also an excellent digestive, similar to catnip in many ways. Both are relaxant to digestive cramping and spasms. Lemon balm calms agitation, and that’s actually one of the ways it helps reduce the severity and duration of herpes outbreaks (in addition to some direct virus-fighting action).

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:13):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:14):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:15):
And we’re here at Commonwealth Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:18):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast.

Katja (00:21):

Ryn (00:22):
Yes. Here we are again. Okay, folks. So, chaos reigns. Sparrows hang from purchase as if they were bats. Plants that used to be green are now blue. Plants that used to be blue are now orange. Things are all out of order here, because today we are going to abandon the alphabet.

Katja (00:46):
It’s topsy turvy time here.

Ryn (00:49):
No, okay. So, we’ve been doing this series. We’ve been going along our list in alphabetical order by Latin name of herbs that are on the shelves in our apothecary here at home. But today we do not be over born by the tyranny of A to Z. Instead, we say let’s talk about linden. Let’s talk about lemon balm. Why? For reasons.

Katja (01:10):
For reasons, right. In their common names they are next to each other.

Ryn (01:15):
Ah, kind of close, yeah.

Katja (01:19):
Here’s the reason, ready? It’s hot, and it’s stressful. And these are two herbs that are calming, and relaxing, and cooling. And it feels like it’s hot and stressful for everyone right now. So, it just felt like let’s just grab some linden and lemon balm and shower them on everyone in the whole world.

Ryn (01:42):
Yeah. Today’s the day. So, we’re going to do that. But first we’re going to give you a quick reminder that we are not doctors. We are herbalist and holistic health educators.

Katja (01:50):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalist in the United States. So, these discussions are for educational purposes only.

Ryn (02:01):
We want to remind you that good health doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone. Good health doesn’t exist as an objective standard. It’s influenced by your individual needs, experiences, and goals. So, keep in mind that we’re not attempting to present a single dogmatic right way that you should adhere to.

Katja (02:18):
Everyone’s body is different. So, the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some good ideas and some information to think about and research further.

Ryn (02:28):
Finding your way to better health is both your right and your own personal responsibility. This doesn’t mean you’re alone on the journey. And it doesn’t mean you are to blame for your current state of health. But it does mean that the final decision when you’re considering any course of action, whether that’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always your choice to make.

Katja (02:48):
Hey, before we jump into linden and lemon balm, I just want to mention, since we’re doing a lot of this materia medica work here. Which honestly, I think the series is so fun. I think we’re only kind of like halfway through it. But I’m really enjoying just like getting nitty gritty about the herbs themselves. And so, I just wanted to mention that if you are really enjoying getting nitty gritty about the herbs themselves, you might like our Family Herbalist program. And we have created a new payment option for that program, so that you can do the entire family herbalist program for $25 a month. And it’s not a membership. You still get to keep all of the material. It doesn’t expire. It doesn’t disappear. We just made a payment plan that extended, so that it could be super low and more accessible to more people. So, if you’ve been wanting to do the family herbalist program, and it just hasn’t been fitting into your budget, now you can. Plus, the way that we set it up was to also let it bring in a certain amount of information each week. And then each week you get an email that says this is the information that’s coming up. And here’s what we’re going to do. And here are some recipes you can try and other cool things. So, even if budget maybe wasn’t a consideration, but you were feeling like wow, that’s kind of an overwhelming amount of information. And honestly, I would like it broken down a little bit. Then this might also be awesome for you. Because it just says look, it’s this week. And this is what we’re going to do this week. And we’re just going to do it. And it’s going to be awesome. And then you know that you’re moving through. Now, listen, if you get behind, don’t worry. Because it never expires. You can always go back and watch it again. Or if you go on vacation, it’s not like going to disappear, because you didn’t do it this week. It’s just like a little different way of organizing, so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming all at once.

Tilia spp.: Common, Harvestable, & Easy to ID

Ryn (04:58):
Yeah. So, if that sounds appealing to you, then you can find that and all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com. Check ’em out. All right. So, let’s talk about linden first. Let’s talk about Tilia species. And it’s always written that way. Like when you see people write the names of their herbs, you know, a lot of times we’ll put the botanical name after the English or the common name, put it in parenthesis. And for a bunch of them you’ll see the genus name like Tilia. And then instead of a particular species name, like officinalis, or hastata, or tomentosa, or any of the other cool fun words that we get to say in our plant names, you might just see it written spp.. So, that means species. And it means plural in this particular case. So, what they’re really saying there is if I’m an herbalist, and I’m saying I work with linden Tilia species, it means pretty much any of the species in that genus is going to do the trick. So, there’s like Tilia cordata. And there’s Tilia Americana.

Katja (06:04):
Tilia x europaea.

Ryn (06:05):
Right. So, a number of different varieties, but so far, they all have the same kind of activities, and chemistries, and herbal actions, and qualities, and all of that kind of aspect to it.

Katja (06:18):
So, that’s kind of handy, because linden is a tree that you find all over the place. It’s really popular in cities, honestly. I don’t know why, but it just is a very popular tree for urban planners to choose. I mean, I can tell you lots of good reasons. But I don’t think that my good reasons are their good reasons. And I’m not sure what their good reasons were. But one of my favorite reasons is that the flowers just smell so good. So, I really love it. Especially when you’re walking around a city. It’s summer. It’s warm. It maybe doesn’t always smell awesome. And then you just walk under this tree. And you’re like oh my God. I could just stand here forever, because it smells so good. But because linden is a popular tree to be planted in cities, it means that this is a tree that you can really get access to in many, many places across the United States, but also in Europe. And that is kind of cool. Especially that it grows in cities, because a lot of times when you live in a city, you don’t really have access to herbs that grow naturally that you could harvest. And it’s nice that linden is there. And I’m not saying that you should just go out and harvest all the linden flowers. But it’s awesome to be able to have a relationship with the plant. Like have a relationship with these flowers when they are in bloom. And you can see them and smell them. Don’t worry, you can’t harvest them all anyway. Like if you pick a few that are low enough for you to reach, go ahead. That’s fine. Because linden trees are so tall, that actually most of the flowers you can’t reach anyway. So, you don’t really have to worry about picking the handful that you can reach, because there are so many up high.

Ryn (08:16):
Yeah. This is a nice thing about trees from which the leaves and the flowers are the parts that we can work with for medicines for herbal remedies. And yeah, they’re just very giving in that way. You can take all you need from a single tree, and the tree’s fine. It’s doing its thing. So, that’s a really nice kind of a relationship to have. And you can also have a long relationship with a single organism that way. It’s like this is that linden tree that I visit every year. That’s nice too. You know, linden is pretty easy to identify. It has these heart shaped leaves. And I like to say they’re heart shaped like your actual heart as opposed to a Valentine heart, because they’re a little lumpy on one side, you know? So, it’s like a lumpy heart shape. You have little triangular teeth along the edges on at least most of the species. And then you also have a pretty distinctive structure for linden that makes it easy to identify. So, there’s the true leaves of the plant, like I was just describing. And then there’s a second structure underneath called a bract. And that’s going to be like on its own little stemlet, you know, between the twig and where the flowers are. So, the bract is really part of the flower structure. But on the linden it looks very separate. And it looks like it’s just a second kind of leaf that the plant makes.

Katja (09:37):
Yeah, it’s a different color.

Ryn (09:39):
So yeah, kind of yellow. Well, yellow or green, I guess you could say. And it’s like a totally different shape. It’s like a canoe shape, you know, long and rounded on the edges and all that.

Katja (09:50):
And the edges are smooth as opposed to the toothy edge of the actual leaves. The actual leaves are really dark green, like really greeny green. And then these bract leaves are very limey green.

Ryn (10:07):
Yeah. So, you know, that makes it easy to ID from any point after those emerge. Then the flowers are going to develop. And then after that they’ll become these little… You know, they’re fruits, but they just look like hanging seeds. But anyway, for large portions of the year, it’s really super easy to identify your linden tree once you see those features of the main leaf, their shape, their margins, their edges, and then the bract as well. You’re like ahh right. We’ve got a linden here. This is great.

An Intoxicating, Aromatic, Relaxant Diaphoretic

Katja (10:40):
And then, you know, from that limey green bract leaf – it’s not actually a leaf, but it sort of looks like one – there is a stem coming from the middle of it that holds the flowers. And the flowers are kind of a buttery creamy white. And the smell is just utterly intoxicating. I mean, so delicious you just want to wrap yourself in the scent of linden.

Ryn (11:12):
For a while there you had this linden perfume that was really lovely.

Katja (11:15):
I still have it. So, I was saying… I was teaching, and I was talking about how much I wished that I could get perfume that smelled like linden, because it smells so good. And then a student who was in that class actually brought me some linden perfume. And I could not believe it. And so, I only wear it on very fancy, special occasions, because I have no idea how I would ever get more. But it’s very fancy.

Ryn (11:49):
Yeah. That’s a nice scent. And you know, when you make tea with linden, it is aromatic. It’s not… hmm, how to say. It’s not aromatic the way lavender is or the way sage or thyme or oregano are.

Katja (12:06):
Okay. You know what, this is? It doesn’t have the sharpness. It is very roundly aromatic. It’s aromatic like vanilla. It’s strongly aromatic. The scent is absolutely unmistakable. You brew a pot of linden tea, and you can smell it across the house. But it’s round. It’s like a very gentle… Even if it is a strong scent, like an unmistakable scent, it is in no way hot. It’s in no way piercing. And if you think about like a lavender scent, or mint, or peppermint, or thyme, there is like a little stabby aspect of that aromatic action. But then if you think about vanilla, that’s a smell that’s unmistakable and yet round.

Ryn (13:00):
Yeah. I see what you mean. Yeah. And the aromatic elements of the linden, they come through with its fairly quick onset, calming effects for nervous tension and nervous excitation or agitation. Linden is a really excellent choice to relax, to calm down, to release tension, and also to release heat from the body. Linden is one of a number of plants that we regard as relaxant diaphoretics. And these can be really helpful in the course of a fever, if you wanted to let some heat off of the body. Or particularly if somebody had a lot of tension, and that was preventing the fever from kind of running its course or working effectively. The heat is trapped. The person’s getting exhausted and worn out. We need that heat to circulate and move through the system. So, that’s one place we can work with relaxant diaphoretics. And then the other big place is where there’s external heat, you know, environmental heat. So, I’m thinking about August. Hot, humid summer days like that. That’s a time when the relaxant diaphoretics can be very, very helpful to open your periphery. Allow the heat to release from the system. Come up right out of you. And then you can feel calmer and cooler.

Katja (14:26):
And you know, it’s in the marshmallow family, the mallow family. And I think that that plays such a role in that calmer cooler part. It is moistening. It is cooling. It is like hydrating to the system in the exact same way that marshmallow is, except that it has bonus nervous system relaxant action. Honestly, I think that marshmallow has some very nice gentle, relaxing action on the nervous system as well.

Ryn (15:04):
Yeah. That can be obvious or pronounced when someone’s starting from a place of extreme dryness. But it’s there even for other folks.

Katja (15:11):
Yeah. But Linden has that more strongly, much more strongly. And I think, you know, so much of that is coming from the aromatic aspect. But when you are feeling… Listen, actually I’m looking at the two of us right now and also listening to the two of us. And I am like really jittery, and talking fast, and realizing that I’m talking fast, and trying to talk slower. And like I don’t normally bounce my leg, but I’ve been bouncing my leg. And I’ve just been really a little agitated. I’m in a good mood, but I’m like just jittery. And you’re talking what feels like really slow to me. And I’m like wow.

Ryn (16:02):
Too much molasses today, Ryn.

Katja (16:04):
No, I’m just like wow, babe. You’re really calm today. And I feel like that’s actually a perfect illustration of linden. Is that when you are feeling that agitation. When you have that feeling like your nerves are buzzing a little. And it’s separate from… Like you could be in a good mood, you could be in a bad mood. It doesn’t really matter. But there is a little bit of discomfort around the buzzing, around the like jitteriness of the nerves. And you just are like you look at people around you. And they all seem so calm. And you’re like how are you doing that? That’s a linden time. That’s a linden time.

Ryn (16:44):
Yeah. It’s a very soothing herb. And we also often talk about – we, I don’t know, Western herbalist generally speaking – talk a lot about linden and its capacity to calm the heart. So, when there’s a racing heart, when there’s palpitations or a feeling of spasm or cramping, in the heart, then linden is a really, really excellent choice there. It conveys that relaxant quality to the heart muscle, just like it does to say your jaw, or your neck, or your lower back, or other places where you carry tension in your body. And so, linden is right up there with hawthorn in terms of herbs that we think of first for a pretty broad array of cardiovascular troubles. Pretty much anything in the hot, tense direction. And linden even in the dry direction, where those are the qualitative states of the cardiovascular system.

Katja (17:42):
And especially I think that putting linden and hawthorn together really mirrors the intense interwovenness of the neurological and cardiovascular systems, right? Like you really can’t actually separate those two. Your heart itself, the organ of your heart, has a very high percentage of nerve tissue actually. There’s like a whole heart brain in your heart, like an entire brain that’s in your heart.

Ryn (18:20):
A complex nexus of sophisticated neural tissue.

Katja (18:23):
That sounds really good.

Ryn (18:25):
Doesn’t that sound fancier. But it’s a heart brain, come on.

Katja (18:28):
It’s a heart brain. And how do you define a heart brain? It’s a complex nexus of… Yes, that’s it exactly. And if you only have one herb to cross through that weaving together, it’s linden. But you don’t have to restrain yourself to only one herb. It can be linden and hawthorn. Two great trees that work great together.

Ryn (18:52):
Yeah. I think the fact of the two of them are trees is a big part of like oh, they should go together. Yeah, that makes sense.

Providing for Itself & Its Community

Katja (18:59):
You want to know what else? Okay. If we’re going to get really metaphorical and kind of poet about these trees for just a second. So, linden is a tremendously giving tree. There’s a whole like ecosystem that lives in a linden tree. This is true of all trees and plants actually. There’s this whole ecosystem of ants and aphids and whatever living in this tree. And by the end of the year actually, a linden tree kind of looks fairly ragged. The leaves are kind of nibbled on. And by the end of the year, you’re sort of like man, you’ve had a whole year right there. Like your leaves are not awesome. And it’s fine. It doesn’t hurt the tree. It’s just that the tree provides so much, and a great deal of that is food, for its community. But interestingly, the wood of linden trees is extremely pest resistant, also rot and fungal resistant. And throughout early American history it was valued for furniture making. And in that regard, it’s often referred to as American basswood. And I don’t think they pronounce that basswood. I think it is pronounced basswood, but like the fish, not like the… Yeah, I think so.

Ryn (20:31):
All right, cool. It’s not like exclusively used for preparing bass guitars?

Katja (20:35):
No, no, no. Also, not fishnets, like I don’t know. Although you can make rope out of linden.

Ryn (20:43):
Yeah. I was going to say well, even before that it was one of the plants we could get cordage from, right? You like take a linden log or a big branch and like soak it in a pond or a stream for a while. And then it softens up the fibers. And you can strip them out, and weave them together, and yeah, end up with a pretty solid rope.

Katja (21:03):
Yeah. It turns out that things with which you can make rope are extremely valuable in the world. But anyway, so what I’m getting at here is that this tree is providing a lot for its community and also protecting its core, like protecting itself as well. Look at all this abundance I have to give to you. But this other part, that’s not available to you. That is me. That’s the part that I need to protect for my own longevity, you know? And yet yeah, these leaves? Go ahead, eat them. I’ll make more next year. It’s fine. And so, then when you think about hawthorn. And hawthorn creates a huge abundance of berries, and yet it has these thorns. And the thorns don’t stop you from getting the berries. They just slow you in getting the berries. There aren’t so many thorns that you’re going to hurt yourself picking, unless you are like greedily grabbing. And again, it is like I will provide abundantly for you. And also, I will have some boundaries for myself, so that I make sure I have what I need. And so, I think this pairing of this great abundance, but not so much abundance that you lose yourself. I think that in our culture many times, especially people who have a heart of service, who have a desire or vocation to care for others, feel like they have to always give everything of themselves. And we even learn that in our mythology. That you have to give to everyone else before you have something for yourself. And that isn’t actually sustainable, right? You actually do have to make sure that your own needs are met, so that you can continue to be in service to others.

Katja (23:23):
And I think also that right now so much of the stress that we see is that because our community systems have been degraded and destroyed, and everybody’s kind of like out there for themselves. You don’t necessarily have a network of neighbors to rely on. You don’t necessarily have family nearby. Or even if they’re nearby, they may not be emotionally available to depend on and lean on. We don’t have those social nets anymore. And so, it’s just like we’re out here having to do everything ourselves. And it’s just exhausting. There is no feeling of it’s okay if I need to lean back. There’s an abundance that can catch me. And so, we always are sort of functioning without a reserve or functioning without a net basically. And these are two trees that have that net. They hold that for themselves. And they also are that for the community, the ecosystem, that lives around them. And I think the way that they are able to be that for so many beings that depend on them is that they do reserve that amount for themselves. So, these two are so perfectly suited for that kind of stress and pain of feeling isolated. Feeling like there’s no one you can depend on. And that’s a particular kind of painful stress and a particular kind of heartache. And here we have linden and also hawthorn who can help with that.

Ways to Work with Linden

Ryn (25:18):
Yeah. Nice. Maybe let’s talk for a moment about some preparation options for linden. So, the linden leaf and flower together, and the bract as well, that can be part of the harvested portion here. We can dry them. We can make tea out of them. It’s really great in tea. You can make a cold infusion or a hot infusion of linden. With your hot infusion you are going to liberate more of those aromatics faster. And so, you might get better activity for that kind of nerve calming effect. When you make a cold infusion, you get more of the moistening effects of the linden. So, they’re both worth a try. And it’s good to experiment with those varieties.

Katja (26:04):
One thing that I really like to do there is make a hot infusion. Put the lid on it tight. And then leave it overnight. So that you get those volatile oils released, but you’ve captured them because the lid is on. And then you also get the moistening action released. And so that way you can have the best of both worlds.

Ryn (26:25):
Yeah. That’s a good way to do it. We can tincture linden. And again, you can do that from fresh or dried. But as often is the case with aromatic plants, we would prefer to do it from fresh material if we can. Linden can also be infused into honey. And wow, is that great.

Katja (26:42):

Ryn (26:44):
And again there, you could put the whole leaf and bract and flower all in there together into your honey. But there is something to be said for taking the extra time to separate out those flowers and just the flowers. Put them into your honey and infuse that. That is some good stuff.

Katja (27:01):

Ryn (27:02):
And that preparation feels very similar to elderflower, when we infuse that directly into honey,

Katja (27:11):
I like to mix those two together, actually. Like if I have an elderflower tincture and a linden infused honey, for example. Then blend them into an elixir. Or both of them in honey together. You know, we had the sort of actions when we get hawthorn and linden together. But when you get elderflower and linden together, the actions are a little bit different. You get all the linden part. But then with the elderflower, you get steam release. Like if you feel like you’re going to blow your stack. If you feel like there’s some rising feelings of anxiety, or anger, or fear, or overwhelm. If you just can’t take it anymore, like all those kinds of things. You still need the linden aspect, the hug of the linden. But the elderflower is giving you that like controlled release of the pressure that’s built up. And I really like that.

Ryn (28:19):
Yeah. Plus, that honey just tastes amazing. And infused honeys are really, really fantastic for the summertime. Because you can just take a spoonful – whatever size spoon is appropriate for you – of your herb infused honey. And put that into a glass full of some sparkling water or plain water, whatever you’re into. Stir that up, and it’s going to taste great. It’s going to be a good delivery method for those herbs as well. Maybe not quite as concentrated as like an alcohol tincture, but it’s honey. It’s pretty lovely.

Katja (28:57):
Yeah, it’s amazing.

Ryn (28:58):
Pretty good on its own.

Katja (28:59):
Yeah. Really an excellent syrup.

Lemon Balm: Emotional Heat Stroke & Calmly Existing the Building

Ryn (29:04):
All right. Well, let’s move on and talk about lemon balm next.

Katja (29:07):
Yes. And you know, lemon balm has that cooling action. That when you’re feeling like you’re going to overheat. Again, when you’re feeling like you’re going to blow your stack. Like you’re ready to blow. That is a lemon balm time. I like to think about heat stroke and things that look like heat stroke.

Ryn (29:34):
That’s your lemon balm phrase.

Katja (29:36):
It is. It is.

Ryn (29:37):
It’s your lemon balm bumper sticker.

Katja (29:39):
And when I say that, you don’t work with heat stroke that often, like really true heat exhaustion, heat stroke. It doesn’t come up that frequently in sort of everyday life. A little more, I guess, if you live in the south. But maybe not because you’re in the air conditioning all the time. But the emotional side of it, like emotional heat stroke, for sure. I feel like that is something that we are dealing with all of the time right now.

Ryn (30:15):
Because what’s heat stroke, right? Yeah, okay, you’re hot. You’re dried out on the skin. Your face is all red. You’re agitated. You won’t settle down. And oh yeah, combative. That’s the other thing that comes with heat stroke, right? It’s no, I don’t need to get in the shade. No, I don’t want any water, rrrgh. So, if you’re just feeling that way, even though it’s not 120 degrees outside, then maybe some lemon balm could help you.

Katja (30:43):
Right. And I mean like emotionally it’s 120 degrees everywhere right now. And so, if you’re feeling overheated, ready to blow, and a little combative, that’s not necessarily unreasonable. But it’s also not comfortable. It’s not a really efficient way to move through your day. And so that’s a place where a lemon balm can just be such a glorious assist.

Ryn (31:10):
Yeah. You know, lemon balm is actually a really excellent digestive herb as well. And I feel like I personally let my eyes slide right off of it towards my catnip. Even though they make sense for the same kinds of indications, and they actually taste really great together. Including with other herbs that might go into a gut heal formula, for someone who can benefit from extra aromatic relaxation.

Katja (31:39):
You know what’s funny is that in our garden, they are right next to each other.

Ryn (31:42):
Yeah. And oh, they’re so good, if you have fresh leaves. I do a two to one ratio. I get two catnip leaves, and I sandwich a lemon balm leaf in between them. And then I eat that, and it makes me feel really good. You can determine your own catnip to lemon balm ratio as you desire, but that’s what I like.

Katja (32:02):
Yeah. And you know, actually these are if you want to do that, they’re two very easy plants to grow. In fact, once you get them started, you can just completely neglect them, and they’re perfectly happy. They’ve got it from here. They’re good. So, if you don’t have a lot of space to grow things, they both will grow happily in a bucket. And you can just put them on your front porch and eat a leaf of each whenever you want to.

Ryn (32:30):
Yeah. Well, like I was saying, for digestive purposes. So, this is primarily a digestive relaxant. It has a little bit of a movement quality to it. A little bit of a… hmm, yeah, some stimulation, some activation. So, it could be helpful if there was a lot of like sluggishness. But the key feature really is tension. So, I’d be looking for either tension with some excess irritation, a little excess heat. Lemon balm can cool that down. But even if there was a lot of tension, and because of that it had led to like a cold or a sluggish pattern, lemon balm could still be helpful there as well.

Katja (33:07):
You know how when you’re in an airplane, and you’re going to take off. And the flight attendants are doing the like in the event of an emergency, you’ll find the exits. And they’ve got their two fingers. And they’re showing the exits and whatever. Y’all, I’m really actually doing it.

Ryn (33:26):
Yeah. She’s directing traffic over there.

Katja (33:28):
I am. And then maybe you’ve watched a movie with a plane crash or whatever. Or maybe you’ve had some real-life situation where the flight attendants were called on to be calm in an emergency situation. But I mean, that is part of their job. And they’re trained to do it. I feel like that’s a really good lemon balm analogy, because when you are really tense, everything is really trapped. And it isn’t just that you’re tense, but there’s a great deal of anxiousness inside of the tension. It’s not enough to just relax, because then all that anxiousness sort of explodes inside you. It just goes everywhere. You kind of need to relax and then calmly exit the building, you know? Well, that’s what we need that anxiety to do.

Ryn (34:25):
Right. Single file.

Katja (34:26):
Yes. And so, it’s like lemon balm is just shepherding. Like, all right, and now we will all relax. And the exits are this way. All anxiety, please move to the front, like whatever. That’s where the motion is, I feel, in lemon balm. It is a very calmly exit the building kind of motion.

Ryn (34:53):
Yeah. You know, agitation can manifest in a bunch of different ways. It’s pretty… I was going to say obvious for us when we’re feeling like mentally or emotionally agitated. Maybe it’s more obvious to the people around you. Particularly if you’re really busy, or if you’re distracted, or if you’re just not really like pausing to tune in to your inner state.

Katja (35:18):
I’m fine. Everything’s fine. It’s fine.

Ryn (35:20):
Let’s just keep going. Yeah. Right.

Katja (35:22):
I just have to get this done. I’m fine.

Helping with Agitation

Ryn (35:26):
So, you know, but agitation can also show up in other ways. And one example would be, hold on, a herpes outbreak. What? No, really. Because you know, agitation in a sense could be like the nerve itself is over irritated, over excited. And one of the ways that’s going to show up with is some inflammation or some irritation in surrounding tissue. And that might be the opening that a viral infection needs to get there in the first place or to like reassert itself, if it’s been dormant for a while. So, when folks have herpes… any kind, you know. And by the way, if you haven’t gotten the memo, the numbers for herpes virus, they’re not about oral versus genital. Maybe once upon a time there was a great dominance. Like most of the oral was this number. And most of the genital was that number. But it’s been a while.

Katja (36:26):
Yeah, like virus type or whatever. The thing is that in this country… If you’re listening to the pod in Europe, or Australia, or somewhere that is not the United States, this part might seem a little weird. But in the United States there is a real stigma around herpes. The rest of the world seems to be pretty clear on the fact that it’s just a thing. It’s part of the ecosystem. Like most people are exposed to it. Most people have had a cold sore at some point in their lives, whatever. And it doesn’t have to be like this big, like hush hush kind of thing. But the United States is one of those places where I don’t know, whatever. And so, it’s just like people get cold sores. They just do. It’s fine. Let’s take care of them.

Ryn (37:10):
Yeah. But my connection here is really just to say that that agitated state of the nerve tissue itself, the agitated response of your immune system to what’s going on with the virus, that is directly connected to mental and emotional agitation. Of course, it’s going to agitate you if you wake up and be like oh, there’s that cold sore on the lip again. I thought I knocked that out, but it’s back. Oh man. So, there’s that piece of it. But also of course that’s much more likely to be your morning wake up news when you’re super stressed out, when you’re really anxious, when there’s a lot of other troubles in your life. And so, it’s just that one extra thing stacked up on top, right? And so lemon balm can be helpful there in that response moment. And lemon balm is not just helpful, because it can calm your nerves. But I do think that that’s a really big part of how it helps, right? A lot of times we’ll talk about lemon balm – we, again, the American herbalist people – we’ll talk about lemon balm and be like yeah, yeah, it’s got great antiviral activity to the herpes family. So, you know, get yourself a poultice, a compress, a liniment, a cream with lemon balm in it. And put that right onto those cold sores, and it will fight them off. And it does. It does directly do that. But again, I always advise people, if you’re going to work with lemon balm topically, also drink a whole bunch of it. Get it internally. And not just because the chemistry will circulate, and some of it will come up to that spot and work on that problem from the inside. But also, from the other inside, from the emotional inside, right? If we can release some tension, release some anxiety, create more calm, that will reduce the severity and the length of these outbreaks.

Katja (38:51):
And for the record, it’s not just lemon balm. Most of the aromatic contingent of the mint family does have this action. But I also feel like we’ve always… We, like I don’t know, the United States herbal community, whatever has always said lemon balm is antiviral against herpes. I’m not certain that that is 100% accurate in the way that we think about the word antiviral. I think that there is some real potential for some direct viral inhibition action.

Ryn (39:38):
Right. Lemon balm is one of these where like we’ve done studies. Okay, take lemon balm extract, and take some virus culture in your Petri dish. And you squirt the extract on it, and you see the virus die. And that’s cool. And that is super directly relevant to those topical applications. You put it right on to the spots. Yeah. So that’s seen.

Katja (39:56):
But I think there’s also like, if you think about the word anti-inflammatory. And this is also a problematic word. Anytime that we’re using crossover medical words to talk about herbs, it is problematic, because they don’t fit quite accurately. But it’s also that these words are in our vernacular. And so, they’re very comfortable for people to reach for. But if you think about inflammation in a nerve, that’s over excitation. That is over stimulation. If you think about what would something red and hot look like in the nervous system. It would look like agitation, and irritation, and short temperedness, and combativeness.

Ryn (40:44):
Uncomfortable sensitivity.

Katja (40:46):
Right. Hypersensitivity. And so, I think that when we’re thinking about lemon balm in its ability to fight off this particular virus and also to be helpful in other viruses that attack nerves, to really recognize that it is not only about the ability to inhibit the individual virus itself. But also, the ability to calm the nerves. And when we’re talking about physiological pathogens in this kind of way, the idea of a relaxant is like, no. I don’t need to just calm down. I need to kill this virus. But it’s like, especially when we’re talking about the nervous system, that actually is all wrapped up in the same thing. It is reducing the inflammation, the irritation, the agitation of the nerve cell itself. And that is part of making the cell less hospitable to the virus. And then also oh, great. We have some direct antiviral kinds of actions to varying degrees, also fine. But I think that in our culture, we don’t value relaxation very much. And we certainly don’t give enough credit to the actual physiological therapeutic value of relaxing.

Ryn (42:17):
Yeah. Relaxation is sort of a luxury. Or it’s perceived as a luxury rather than necessity. And of course, that’s because for a lot of folks, it really is. And it’s not one afforded to them by circumstances. And not just circumstances, but structures that are built to prevent them from being able to access it.

Katja (42:40):
And I think it’s like twofold too. It’s like particularly insidious. Because on one hand we have built systems that mean that only privileged people have the space in which to relax. But then also we’ve built a culture that says you are relaxing too much. You’re slovenly now. You’re slothful now.

Ryn (43:03):
And if you’d like to relax appropriately, well, I have a $500 a night spa getaway for you.

Katja (43:09):
Right, right.

Ryn (43:10):
And that’s the right place for relaxation.

Katja (43:13):
Right. Just for your one night, and then go back to the grind, and whatever. Yeah. Well, it’s okay to relax longer, if you can afford $500 a night for multiple days.

Ryn (43:24):
There you go. Yeah. Then.

Katja (43:25):
Then it’s okay to relax.

Ryn (43:25):
Clearly, you’ve earned it, you know?

Katja (43:27):
Yes. Clearly, you’ve earned it, right. The reality is that the human body requires time to relax. Relaxation is anti-inflammatory.

Ryn (43:37):
Yeah, I’m feeling like I need some lemon balm to steam off some of this. This righteous anger here, you know? Yeah. So, lemon balm for everybody. A lemon balm bush on every corner. And then we can all get in the habits of grabbing a leaf off of them.

Katja (43:54):
Having a nice nibble.

Ryn (43:55):
As we march off to our destinations. Yeah. I think that would be very helpful. If there are any city planners in the audience then…

Katja (44:04):
I mean, we’ve got it. We’ve got the linden trees in the cities already. So, we just need the lemon balm.

Ryn (44:09):
Yeah. Selective community planting for community immunity and community harmony. Look at that.

Katja (44:18):
Yes. I like this.

Ryn (44:19):
That seems good.

Katja (44:20):
I like this. Lemon balm, a community builder.

Ryn (44:23):
All right, folks. Thank you for being part of our community by listening to our podcast this week. And every week, right, every week, yeah.

Katja (44:32):
And don’t forget to check out our courses online. You’ll find them all at online.commonwealthherbs.com. And especially if you’ve been interested in the family herbalist program, check out the new tuition schedule, where you can grab that for just $25 a month.

Ryn (44:51):
Yeah. All right. Well, that’s it for this week. We’ll be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast. Until then take care of yourselves. Take care of each other. Drink some tea.

Katja (45:01):
Or have a catnip and lemon balm sandwich.

Ryn (45:04):
There you go. And we’ll see you next time.

Katja (45:07):
Bye bye.


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